Beware The Counterfeit Coach

You’re at a party or a business networking event, or maybe you’re at church or standing in line at the grocery store, and you get into a conversation with another person. Inevitably the conversation comes around to, “So, what do you do?”

How often have you heard, “I’m a coach!”?

Now, you KNOW there can’t be that many Coaches out there, right? And you’re right. There aren’t. There are, however, a lot of counterfeit coaches out there!

We know of many companies that sell coaching services. Many are selling consulting. Still, others are selling a linear program designed by the company and with a specified result. We have no problem with consulting or training services. We do have a problem with disguising either as coaching.

Unfortunately, many people who call themselves coaches deliver consulting, mentoring, or therapy services or just hand out advice. When you’re ready to hire a Coach, we want to make sure you have the information you need to hire a REAL COACH. What we want for you is to get ALL the benefits of working with a professional.

What is Coaching?

Professional Coaching is a partnership between a qualified Coach and an individual or team (client). The partnership supports the client’s achievement of extraordinary results based on goals set by them. The coaching process focuses the client on the skills and actions needed to successfully produce their relevant results. The client chooses the focus; the Coach listens, contributes observations, challenges assumptions, and questions concepts and principles to help generate possibilities and identify actions and solutions. Coaching accelerates the client’s progress by providing greater focus and awareness of options leading to more effective choices.

Coaching starts where the client is now and with what he/she is willing to do to get where they want to be in the future. Results are a combined effort of the client’s intentions, choices, and actions, supported by the Coach’s efforts and application of coaching skills, approaches, and methods.

An additional benefit of coaching is that the client often discovers unrealized, unused, forgotten, or new skills and strengths due to the coaching process.

What is a Professional Coach?

The simple answer is a Professional Coach is skilled and trained to work with clients and help them reach a specific goal, or set of goals, in their personal or professional development. Coaching is a creative and thought-provoking process enabling clients to maximize their potential in specific areas most important to them.

That’s a long-winded way of saying a Professional Coach has training in listening to clients and working with them to achieve the results they want using customized solutions created by the partnership between the Coach and client.

Think of coaching this way (and I thank one of my early clients for the analogy): Imagine Jiminy Cricket sitting on your shoulder. Remember what Jiminy did for Pinocchio? His job was to keep Pinocchio on the straight and narrow – acting as his conscience.

Now put a pair of army boots on Jiminy.

A Coach’s job is like Jiminy’s: We don’t act as your conscience, but we do guide you in your choices and actions and keep your focus on the end goal. And, yes, when you need a little  ‘encouragement‘ to get moving, those army boots can come in real handy.

Why Hire a Coach

We all have blind spots. We all have our own set of beliefs; things we believe are absolutely true that may not be true at all. Working with a trained Coach, someone with expertise in listening for subtleties, nuances, and the message behind the words, has tremendous value. Here’s why:

  1. A Coach can make it easier for you to create a sense of what you really want. Are the choices you’re making yours or based on what somebody else wants for you? Creating your own vision or expectations for yourself can bring more passion to your life and give you a more compelling foundation for your choices.
  2. We all have questions we’re either reluctant to answer or are afraid even to ask ourselves. Working with a trained Coach in a safe environment, someone who’s an effective communicator, can often help you answer those important questions that are too uncomfortable or difficult for you to answer on your own.
  3. A trained Coach gives you a sounding board and reality check to explore possibilities, get beyond what you know, and explore assumptions that may not be accurate. By asking a simple question, a Coach can get you to look at where your beliefs are getting in your way so you get past it.
  4. Working with a trained Coach, a Professional Coach, you have someone in your corner who doesn’t have an agenda and is focused exclusively on what’s right for you, the client. No hidden agendas. No expectation of benefit to themselves.
  5. A Coach will challenge you to be your best – to take some risk where you might not on your own. Your Coach will get you to stop talking and start doing to get the results you want.

Here are some examples of the results clients have gotten working with a Professional Coach:

  • Overcame fear of networking to grow a business
  • Learned skills for establishing stronger and healthier boundaries with family for more harmonious family gatherings
  • Effectively transitioned from military service into civilian life
  • Created a balance between work, family, and personal time that made sense
  • Design a strategic plan for the sale of a business resulting in grossing 2 ½ times the original sale amount
  • Improved management skills for a more productive department
  • Created and managed staff training programs to reduce turnover and improve employee satisfaction
  • Got professional counseling to resolve marital discord
  • Gained control over a To-Do list to get more done and set priorities for daily and future tasks

Case Study:

A client, Emerson, came from a long line of men who all died at very early ages. He believed his life would follow the same pattern so he lived his life in a rush, trying to accomplish a lot, thinking he could die any day. With coaching, challenging assumptions, delving into values and other areas of his life and his beliefs, Emerson realized his fast lifestyle meant he wasn’t focusing on things essential to him. He haphazardly did many things without thinking them through and knowing what he wanted to accomplish.

Emerson was able to slow down, begin making choices and taking actions not based on his fear of dying. Quality of life improved dramatically, his relationships were deeper, and his business life was more productive and fulfilling. It didn’t happen overnight for him, but it did happen.


When is the Best Time to Hire a Coach

There are several factors to consider about the timing of hiring a Coach. Here are some of them:

  • You must have the time or be willing to find the time needed for coaching sessions. You need to be focused, uninterrupted, and undisturbed. You need the time to work and focus on what you’ve discussed in your coaching sessions and take action.
  • The questions or thoughts you have can indicate that the time is right to work with a Coach.
    • “I’m not sure my life (or my business or my relationship) is going in the direction I want it to go in.”
    • “I have questions and I’m not sure who to ask to help me get clarification to find the answers.”
  • You may be getting in your own way with attitudes and beliefs holding you back, or procrastinating about taking actions. When you’re tired of the status quo and know there’s something more for you in your life, you’re ready for coaching.
  • Financially you must be in a position to afford a Coach. Paying for your Coach cannot create a hardship for you or cause you not to pay other obligations.
  • Mindset is also a critical factor for you. Are you willing to let go of some of your ego and admit you don’t have all the answers? Are you afraid to ask for help, or does your ego prevent you from reaching out and getting the help you want and need? You have to be willing to reach out and have a partner – someone who’s on your side and with whom you’re willing to be open and vulnerable.

Coaching can be beneficial to almost anybody. The key is you must be ready to make some changes, and those are not always going to be comfortable or fun.

But that’s why you hire a Coach – to get you doing the things you don’t want to do so you can get to where you want to be.

People hire a coach to work on finances, relationships, career changes, life transitions ….  The bottom line is you can hire a coach for almost any situation you’re stuck on or just don’t want to face alone, to accelerate progress toward a specific goal, or to generally upgrade your life or business. Possibilities are endless.

While everyone might benefit from coaching, if the timing isn’t right, don’t hire a Coach until it is.


What Coaching Is NOT

Coaching is Not Therapy:

Therapy deals with healing pain, dysfunction, and conflict within an individual or in a relationship between two or more individuals. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past which get in the way of a person’s emotional functioning in the present. Therapy helps improve overall psychological functioning and dealing with present life and work circumstances in more emotionally healthy ways. Therapy outcomes often include improved emotional/feeling states.

Coaching, on the other hand, is forward moving and future-focused. It supports personal and professional development based on client-centered goals and outcomes. While positive feelings and emotions may be (and often are) a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in the client’s work or personal life. The emphasis in a coaching relationship is on the action, accountability, and follow-through.

While some therapists now offer coaching in addition to therapy, it’s typically not appropriate to work with one person using both modalities at the same time. Some people choose to work with a Coach and therapist simultaneously, but they are two different professionals.

Coaching is not Consulting:

You retain a consultant for their specialized expertise. While consulting approaches vary widely, the assumption is that the consultant will diagnose problems then prescribe, and sometimes implement, solutions. Solutions are based on the consultant’s background and expertise. Consultants often have pre-packaged answers.

The Coach comes to the relationship believing their clients can generate their own “fits me perfectly” solutions, with the Coach supplying supportive, discovery-based approaches and frameworks. Coaches offer questions to find customized, individual solutions. While consultants often focus on fixing the problem, Coaches work on also understanding the people involved.

Coaching is not Mentoring:

Mentoring is guiding or sharing from experience in a specific area of industry or career development. Although some Coaches provide mentoring as part of their coaching, such as in mentor coaching for new Coaches, Coaches are not typically mentors to those they coach. A Coach doesn’t need to have specific industry expertise. In fact, sometimes, not having industry-specific knowledge allows for greater exploration of limiting beliefs and assumptions.

Coaching is not Training:

By definition, training programs are based on participants learning specific objectives defined by the trainer or instructor. It also assumes a linear learning path that coincides with an established curriculum. In the coaching process, objectives are clarified by the client with guidance provided by the Coach. Coaching is fluid and has no set curriculum or plan. (Coaching can be a great way to follow-up, solidify, and help implement what is learned through training.)

Coaching is not like Sports Coaching:

Sports metaphors are often used to describe coaching, but Professional Coaching is very different from the traditional Sports Coach. The Sports Coach is an expert whose job is to guide and direct athletes’ and teams’ behavior based on his greater experience and knowledge. The focus is often on improving actions that are being executed poorly or incorrectly. Sports Coaches are VERY attached to the outcomes – winning is the name of the game. AND Sports Coaches often expect to be very visible to the public.

Professional Coaches have the same qualities as sports coaches, but it’s the client’s experience and knowledge that determines the direction. Additionally, the focus is on identifying opportunities for development based on individual strengths and capabilities. And Professional Coaches have no attachment to outcomes but are, instead, VERY focused on what’s best for the client … clients define their own game and the rules they will follow. Any public attention is focused on the client, not the Coach.

What Should I Ask a Coach Before I Hire One?

The coaching relationship is a very personal one. In many cases, a client will tell the Coach things they’d never share with anyone else. One of the reasons is the Coach creates a very safe environment for open communication and sharing. The Coach comes to sessions with no agenda and no judgment. Sessions are all about the client.

That said, there are still things you want to pay attention to when interviewing Coaches. First, make sure you feel good with the coach, i.e., do you click? Not every Coach can work with every client. Personalities do play a part in your selection, but that’s not enough.

Next, ask some questions. Here are some you may want to consider:

  • How long have they been coaching?  Generally speaking, the longer a Coach has been in the field, the more clients they’ve coached and the more experience they have. That’s not to say a newer Coach won’t be effective for you, just less experienced.
  • What training do they have?  Have they had any training as a Coach? Are they currently in a training program? Is the training program accredited by the International Coach Federation? If not, did they get training in the skills and competencies standard in the coaching profession?
  • What credentials do they have? Are they from a professional association? Credentials granted by specific training organizations may have limited value as there is no standard to judge the requirements fulfilled by the coach. For example, a Certification for a 3-day or 3-month coach training program only means the coach paid their fee and completed whatever required course work. You have no way of knowing whether that coach can deliver the service of coaching to you.
  • What is their format?  Do they coach in person or by phone?  How many times per month will you work together?  How long are the coaching sessions?  Do they require a minimum commitment for the number of months?  What is their fee?
  • How would they define their style of coaching?  How will they adapt their style to yours? Coaching is very personal and every Coach has a unique style. Some Coaches may be too ‘soft’ for you, others too ‘rigid.’ Once you begin work with a Coach, if you find their style doesn’t fit for you, you can end that relationship and find another Coach more suited to you and your personality. A Professional Coach will be able and willing to provide you with other coaches’ names who may be more suited to you.
  • What is their background? If you want a Coach to work with you on your business, you want one who can model that. If you want to live with more balance, you want a Coach who lives that way. Do they have experience working with clients like you? What kinds of successes have their clients had? You wouldn’t go to a divorce lawyer to file bankruptcy. Why would you hire a Coach to work with you on your business specializing in working with stay-at-home moms and life balance?
  • What do they do for continuing education? How do they upgrade their skills and stay fresh with their coaching?
  • Do they have a Coach of their own? There is no Coach we respect who does not have a Coach of their own. It only makes sense – Coaches are telling clients everyone can benefit from coaching. When asked if they have a Coach, if their response is, “No,” they’re saying, “You need one. I don’t”. There’s an integrity issue here and one that would make me question the value of coaching with this coach.
  • How do they see starting their work with you?  Will they start with an assessment of some kind, or do they have a specific process they follow? Is there something they require from you (pre-work) before you begin coaching?

Hire a Pro!

There is no shortage of people holding themselves out to be coaches. There may even be some counterfeit coaches who can move you to action and results. Maybe not as fast and effectively as a Professional Coach, but results none-the-less.

The problem, though, is that until you’ve invested some time and money with them, you won’t know.

Better to begin with the greater possibility of hiring a Coach who’s been trained and has the skill to get you moving to the results you want.

We think most people can benefit from having a Coach. We even have our own Coaches and have since we began our own coaching businesses in 1994.

Coaching is powerful and transformational. We know what’s possible … We want you to have the best and most productive experience with the Coach you hire.

Be informed: Hire the best!

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